Omaha priest wants to continue lifelong service to young people

It’s a standing offer, an open invitation to Boys Town graduates – a weekly dinner at an Omaha restaurant. And Father Val Peter picks up the check.

Father Peter, who retired last month, first offered the dinners 10 years ago and plans to continue as long as he can because "it’s fun." As many as 35 attend the weekly event.

The 83-year-old Omaha priest, executive director of Boys Town from 1984 to 2005, said working with young people, especially those down on their luck and in need of God’s love and human love, has been a driving force during his nearly 58 years of priesthood.

Father Peter, whose last assignment was as senior associate pastor of Immaculate Conception Parish at Boys Town, said he still considers Boys Town graduates his family. In fact, he receives phone calls daily from them, he said.

The weekly dinner is just another way to connect with graduates. It’s all part of the treasured relationship Father Peter said he has with those he helped guide.

Although Father Peter considers Boys Town his "home," he is returning "home" in a sense when he moves to New Cassel Retirement Center for his retirement.

That’s because it’s where he had one of his first assignments as a priest. He was chaplain there in the 1960s for several years for students studying at the now closed Our Lady of Angels Convent, the University of Nebraska at Omaha, St. John Seminary (now Mount Michael Benedictine High School) and College of Saint Mary.

Father Peter said he is happy to meet and serve the residents at New Cassel, and make himself available to serve the archdiocese in any way he can.

Father Peter grew up in South Omaha, and attended Creighton Preparatory High School. He studied at Conception Seminary in Conception, Mo., and later Gregorian University, University of St. Thomas and Lateran University, all in Rome. He was present in Rome when the Second Vatican Council met from 1962 to 1965, and worked as an official notary.

In addition to his years as a chaplain and his time at Boys Town, Father Peter was assistant pastor of Holy Cross Parish in Omaha and taught at Creighton University. Father Peter also was a defender of the marriage bond and a tribunal judge for the archdiocese.

He received many awards, including the presidential award from the National Association of Homes and Services for Children in 1999, Nebraska Foundation’s 2007 Nebraskalander of the Year, and 2000 Wallenberg Humanitarian Award (New York Chapter). He also was a member of 11 boards, including chairman of the board of the North American edition of the International Catholic Review’s "Communio," a quarterly issue that regularly carries articles on philosophy, the arts, and the relationship between Catholicism and American culture.

"The highlights of my priesthood have always been with people in trouble, and I’ve been inspired by the people who are down and out and had the courage to follow the Lord," Father Peter said.

"With his grace, I helped them. We’ve always helped each other."

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